Friday, July 31, 2009


Summer 1986, Iowa City, Iowa

As my parents helped me move into the new house, I noticed the barely legible words written on the bed sheet hanging on the front porch: DRUG DEATH. My folks pretended not to notice and greeted my friends with smiles and handshakes.

The Dude Ranch became a haven for all sorts of people and we had a lot of folks crashing on our couches at all times. It was a trusting environment with the whole hippie ethos, live and let live and ask few questions and make few judgments. Even with all the people taking advantage of the generosity, it seemed okay to let the lost souls collect in our living room.

I was dating a girl named Meg who had a big circular scar where her bellybutton should have been. I had noticed it one of the first times we had sex, but I never let it bother me. She mentioned it to me then, like I had to have noticed, but I acted as if it were no big deal. Some others may have thought it was weird to not have a bellybutton, but for some reason I have always been attracted to imperfection, like buck teeth for example. Besides, this was long before the Brittany Spears craze of showing your bellybutton to the world at all times.

Meg spent most nights in my room in the Dude Ranch, and she was even thinking about moving in permanently amidst the chaos and parties. One day I came home after work in the Hamburg Inn no. 2, working as a short order grill cook, and I saw one of my housemates and Meg on the couch. He was holding her tightly as she cried into his chest. I went to give her a hug, but she made no effort to accept. I thought oh no she has been raped, but soon found out that one of the couch crashers, a guy named Merlin, had knocked on our door after Meg got out of the shower, masturbating in front of her into a towel. Only by slamming and holding the door tightly shut and screaming her head off did she finally manage to send him running out of the otherwise empty house.

Rich told me that all of the other housemates were out looking for Merlin in every bus stop and up and down the highways, armed with tire irons to beat his head in. They never found the guy but two years later when I saw him again in a bar, I asked Meg if she wanted me to go over and grab him, or if she wanted to pursue some sort of prosecution, but she said she didn’t think it was worth it.

I found out later that Merlin, like me, was from Nevada, Iowa, and that he had gone back there after fleeing Iowa City that night. He was busted for doing the same thing to a woman washing her car one sunny summer Sunday on the corner of H Ave and 30th Street.

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